A unique and distinguished musician, Gary Smart is a composer and pianist with an abiding interest in Americana, world music and jazz, as well as with the Western classical music tradition. His career has encompassed a wide range of activities in all these areas, and he may be the only pianist to have studied with Yale scholar/keyboardist Ralph Kirkpatrick, the great Cuban virtuoso Jorge Bolet, and the master jazz pianist Oscar Peterson. Dr. Smart received his education at Indiana University, the Hochschule fur Musik Köln (Germany) and Yale University, and has performed in the United Kingdom, continental Europe, Asia and the United States as soloist, accompanist and chamber music player.
A recipient of composition awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Music Educators National Conference, and other prestigious organizations, his music has been recorded on Mastersound Records and is published by Margun Music. The Major’s Letter, a CD featuring five of his song cycles sung by four singers with the composer at the piano, was recently released by Albany Records. Dr. Smart's The Songs I Sang, for mixed chorus and trumpet, was selected by the Orange Park Chorale for inclusion in their November 19, 2006, Intermezzo Sunday Concert of music by local composers, and the State of Florida's Division of Cultural Affairs includes excerpts of several of Dr. Smart's compositions on their website, available for online listening.
SMART: Harlequin Rag (2006) “The Harlequin Rag is perhaps more a rag-inspired piece than a true rag; but then so are many stride piano pieces and novelty solos from the 1920’s and 30’s. My piece begins innocently enough in a Fats Waller vein, but soon veers left into a blend of Stravinsky, Italian opera overture and piquant folk song. Though it does follow the rag form of AABBACCDD, the sections are most often altered on repetition and become longer and more developmental as the piece progresses. A dreamy coda finishes the work off.
“Harlequin was, of course, a character in the popular medieval Italian improvisational theater, the Commedia dell’arte. He was a peasant, poor and illiterate, but clever, persistent and resourceful, and always colorful. He was said to carry a baton with which he bashed other characters on the head – in the style of “Punch and Judy” puppet shows. Supposedly this led to the modern term, “slapstick” comedy. Harlequin has remained a popular figure to the present day, a type of comedic character which generations recognize and admire....the little big man.
“I hope you will enjoy this overly dramatic, sometimes bombastic, heart-on-the-sleeve work of light-classical fluff, an American’s polite bow to Italian culture.”—Gary Smart
Also an award-winning teacher, Dr. Smart has taught at several institutions in Japan and as a Distinguished Fulbright Professor in Indonesia. Before coming to Jacksonville he was chair of the Music Department at the University of Wyoming, where he received the "President's Award" for outstanding faculty. From 1999-2003, he was the Chairman of the University of North Florida Department of Music, and is currently the Terry Professor of Music at UNF, where he teaches composition and piano.
In February 2006, Dr. Gary Smart joined UNF music professor Dr. Simon Shiao as the first artists to perform an Intermezzo concert, presenting The Kreutzer Project, featuring Beethoven's legendary Kreutzer Sonata for violin and piano. In addition to this solo recital, this season's Intermezzo series includes his April 22, 2007, performance of Ravel Piano Trio, alongside Dr. Shiao and JSO Principal Cellist Alexei Romanenko. And on September 16, 2007, Dr. Smart joins baritone Dr. Krzysztof Biernacki to inaugurate our 2007-08 season.